St Albans NHS blood scandal victim praises appointment of inquiry head

Factor VIII was often contaminated with diseases.

Factor VIII was often contaminated with diseases. - Credit: Archant

A victim of the NHS blood scandal has praised the appointment of a High Court judge to oversee the public inquiry.

Factor VIII was often contaminated with diseases.

Factor VIII was often contaminated with diseases. - Credit: Archant

Sir Brian Langstaff will head an investigation into who is responsible for the infection of thousands of haemophiliacs with hepatitis C and HIV in the 1970s and 80s.

Haemophiliacs caught diseases from a plasma treatment called Factor VIII - although very effective, it had been concocted by mixing blood donations from numerous people and just one diseased sample would compromise the whole batch.

Plasma donations were taken from paid prisoners and drug users in the United States and then shipped to the NHS.

St Albans mum Nicky, who only reveals her first name, was one of 4,600 people who caught hepatitis C, but fortunately she had recovered by 1997.

She said the inquiry is her only chance for justice: “It’s paramount that Sir Brian Langstaff realises the extent of what happened and how to this day it’s still being covered up.

“Victims and their families want answers - we know the questions and we now want to be answered with honesty.”

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She feels haemophiliacs were treated like animals to be researched: “To give haemophiliacs treatment from up to 10,000 people was going to always have implications. To say that haemophiliacs are human chimpanzees shows that what happened was calculated.”

In a BBC Panorama episode aired last year, it was revealed that the risks of Factor VIII were known well before its widespread use was curbed. At the time, patients’ blood started to be tested without consent or knowledge.

The inquiry will start on May 1 after Sir Brian has retired from the High Court.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington, said: “The victims of this tragedy who have endured so much pain and hardship deserve answers.”

He added: “It is very important that the inquiry can identify why and how this tragedy occurred and provide answers for all the victims who have suffered so terribly, and can identify lessons to be learned so that a tragedy of this scale can never happen again.”

There has been a previous inquiry in 2009 and compensation for some victims, but that did not include Nicky because she did not meet certain qualifying criteria.

Five hundred victims, including Nicky, are also in the process of suing the government.